Times & Transcript (June 20, 2007) Confucius Institute to open in Metro this fall, promoting Chinese culture and N.B.-China business links - Look here and here for more on this topic.
One may only wonder what the Beijing political elite is really up to, knowing full well that they don't cherish the Confucius teachings of virtue and free speech. What Reichert said really worries me: "It's a win-win, on one hand the Chinese do, through things like the Confucius institute, raise awareness in Canada about China, and that's their objective; but on the other hand, the benefit is for Canadians who are interested in doing business in China."
Another major concern is this stipulation on the Hanban's websites stating: "Overseas Confucius Institutes must abide by the one-China policy." Knowing this, Reichert’s remarks suddenly appear short of reassuring. How will we know if the textbooks are to be filled with anti-democracy, anti-Falun Gong material glorifying the party, complete with slogans of "Peaceful development road" and "Harmonious society"? I don't mean to sound xenophobic but we should be on guard. The Chinese recently announced that they are going ahead with the revision of their history textbooks to reflect a flawless China, discarding historical facts harmful to the nation's image.
I completely agree that China's genuflecting to Confucius is just another tool to wield soft power abroad, spread the Communist values that are completely opposite of ours and I won’t even mention espionage—the CSIS folks made is clear that those communist schools pose a national threat to our nation. For the Ministry of Education et al to be so coy as to give them carte blanche is laughable. Seeing no evil is an immoral policy when it comes to engaging with Communist China.
'Ignore China at your own peril' resounds as one of the most repeated mantras of the 21st century. And no matter whether their keen interest in the red giant and its Confucius Institute is driven by geo-political or economic motivations, it appears that both Canada's spy agency and Metro Moncton are heeding the caveat.
But the Department of Education says New Brunswickers shouldn't be concerned by a secret report from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service which paints an oddly suspicious portrait of the Chinese educational institute -- a brainchild of China's Ministry of Education- that will open its doors in Moncton this fall.
The report, which was obtained through the access to information legislation and which features several passages that are blacked out, states that the Confucius Institute's mandate to teach Chinese language and culture beyond the Chinese borders may be part of a larger scheme to help the communist country win the hearts and minds of the world as it emerges as a global superpower.
"For China to achieve its goals, people must admire China to some degree," the CSIS report says, alluding to a concept known as "soft power."
"While academics debate the relative importance of hard power -- tanks, missiles, guns and the like -- versus soft power, the People's Republic of China (PRC) government views the soft power concept as useful," the February intelligence report indicates.
Also listed in the report as other examples of China's efforts to win over the world through "soft power" are next year's Beijing Olympic Games, NBA Star Yao Ming, and the Gao Xingjian's 2000 Nobel Prize for literature. Citing a 10-year relationship of business and student exchanges that has built between the individuals behind the institute and the Atlantic Educational International Inc. (AEI), an affiliate of the Department of Education, department spokesman Jason Humphrey said the concerns expressed by the report are not shared by either AEI or the Minister.
"It's really hard to explain a concern because we've never really had a concern or seen a concern."
Speaking on behalf of AEI, which will share quarters with the Confucius Institute, Humphrey says the institute's presence in New Brunswick means greater access for Canadian business people and students into the country's gargantuan markets and rich culture.
Dr. Jim Reichert is vice-president research and international at the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), which has hosted Canada's first Confucius Institute since 2005.
He sees the CSIS report as a bizarre take on the type of promotional activities many countries have undertaken to increase their international profile.
"The implications mentioned in the report suggest there is somehow something subversive going on but that's the farthest thing from any reality that's going on at the Confucius Institute," Reichert said.
"There is nothing particularly subversive about it, but when you put the label soft power on it begins to sound subversive."
However, Reichert doesn't mind having BCIT named in the same light as the Olympics and Yao Ming.
"It's kind of interesting because nothing gets the public's interest like being mentioned in a secret CSIS report," he said.
"On the positive side, it's actually given us a tremendous opportunity to talk to a pretty broad audience through the media about some of the programs we are delivering."
Included in those programs are part-time courses to help business people navigate the ins and outs of doing business in China, from business practices to social protocol, and basic language classes.
Reichert was quick to note, however, that each institute shapes its own programs, although AEI officials have indicated that the Moncton location will have a business focus that will also help draw immigration and international students to the province.
"It's a win-win, on one hand the Chinese do, through things like the Confucius institute, raise awareness in Canada about China, and that's their objective; but on the other hand, the benefit is for Canadians who are interested in doing business in China."
Humphrey names the Moncton Flight College as an example of the type of success story the province banks on the Confucius Institute to help multiply.
"If we don't have a Confucius Institute or an opportunity for our business people in New Brunswick to understand the culture and the language, we can't expand like that.
Humphrey said that although the institute begins offering a full slate of programs this fall, it has already offered 30 students introductory classes.
There are also Confucius Institutes open or ready to open in Waterloo and Montreal, and over 100 in total across the world.
CSIS draws analogies between the Confucius Institutes and the German Goethe Institutes, the Spanish Cervantes Institutes and the French Alliance Francaise.
Confucius was a fifth-century Chinese philosopher and teacher whose thought shaped traditional and modern Asian culture.
With files from the Canadian Press.